Structured Data for Libraries: RDFa … Eh?

It’s been about two months now since the American Library Association held its annual meeting, this year in Las Vegas. Unfortunately I had to miss this event, which was disappointing because there was a fantastic looking pre-conference on linked data presented by the Library Linked Data Interest Group. Theodore Gerontakos provides a wonderful summary of what happened and I direct you there to read his overview.

What I wanted to focus in on today is the opening pre-conference presentation delivered by Dan Scott: “Structured Data for Libraries: RDFa and“. Scott is a self-professed “library geek” and is currently the Systems Librarian at Laurentian University in Sudbury.

Scott provides a nice introduction to RDFa* and the code samples help walk you through everything from simple HTML coding to a number of increasingly complex ways to incorporate RDFa into HTML. It is these code examples that I find to be a particularly valuable part of Scott‘s presentation.

Next he introduces us to the folks at who set out in 2011 to create “a single vocabulary for all things.” With its commercial roots it remains to be seen if will become the one vocabulary that rules them all, but it has become a popular resource with search engines like Bing, Google, Yahoo! and Yandex (not surprisingly since they are all contributors to the development of this schema).

Now nicely primed and ready to code Scott serves up some practical “codelabs” providing an opportunity to get our hands (or at least our fingertips) dirty. The exercises start with example web pages and demonstrate how to enhance them using the structured data that Scott has shown us in his presentation.

There is also a more advanced codelab that uses the Python programming language and shows how to capture the structured data found in the “sitemap” of a website. A sitemap is a method of informing search engines about the structure of the pages and the best path the search engine should use to crawl through the site.

This practical introduction to structured data deserves close attention and will help anyone trying to familiarize themselves with linked data concepts. It’s also useful to revisit Scott’s presentation at Code4Lib earlier this year which he writes about in the blog post Tales of a semantic web dropout (or what I meant to say at code4lib 2014).

Thankfully what happens in Vegas doesn’t always have to stay in Vegas!

* RDFa is short for Resource Description Framework in Attributes. For the visually inclined I also recommend this short video about RDFa by Manu Sporny RDFa Basics.

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